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Fedja Borcak, Linnaeus University

The Notion of Home in Literature Written by the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Diaspora in Scandinavia

  • Name: Fedja Borcak
  • Academic credentials: PhD, Lecturer, Linnaeus University

Abstract: The paper will demonstrate the construction of the notion of home in literary works by Bosnian-Herzegovinian diaspora writers in Scandinavia. Recent reports, especially in the media, have represented the large-scale immigration of Yugoslavs (most of them Bosnians) in connection to the war in the early 1990s—and later their integration—as a great success in all three Scandinavian countries. However, contrary to the weight in these reports on the positive outcomes of migration, the last two decades of literature written by Bosnian immigrants exhibits a common preoccupation with difficult emotional, existential, and social experiences of migration on the individual level. 

While a common feature of the texts is the foregrounding of personal trauma and loss of homeland, coupled with existential uneasiness and the sense of non-belonging in the host land, they also experiment with concepts of home that may or may not work within the tension between the material and mental limitations of the nation-state and identifications enabled by transnational movement and multi-local affiliation. Naturally, the Scandinavian context provides specific circumstances—political, cultural, and social—for this process.

Although anthropological research into processes of homemaking among the Bosnian minority has been conducted, the processes have received very little attention among literary scholars. However, with the aesthetic capacity of literature to elaborate images of social issues in ways that are unavailable to other discourses, a literary approach inspired by theories about diaspora, transnationalism, and homemaking can yield new insights into the complexities of everyday experiences of immigration to Scandinavia. 

In the paper I will focus upon one particular way of conceiving home that is actualised in the Swedish-based writer Adnan Mahmutović’s How to Fare Well and Stay Fair. Here, the author talks about “ho?me”, in one stroke enclosing the devastation of an origin as well as the concurrent future-oriented possibility of a new belonging. While the question mark metaphorically breaks up one ‘home’, it seeks another. I will discuss how the concept is illustrative of the tension in which the Bosnian immigrant is situated, and relate it to other literary works by writers among the Bosnian diaspora, such as Alen Mešković’s Første gang tilbage and Bekim Sejranović's Nigdje, niotkuda (Nowhere, Nowhere from).

Theme: Border-Crossing: Migration, Travel, and Tourism

Earlier Event: June 15